Friday, August 25, 2006

Collaborations With Janet Kozachek

I shouldn't have worried about my meeting with Janet Kozachek. It went wonderfully, of course. It still doesn't surprise me that I was a little nervous and a lot in awe. Janet is undoubtedly brilliant. She reads, writes, and speaks fluent Chinese and can compare the writing styles from different historic periods and areas. She paints, sculpts, and makes mosaics. She started the International Mosaic Society and teaches Chinese watercolor through the South Carolina Arts commission's Art-in-Education program. Her thoughts are deep; her intentions are serious; her work is infused with passion and vast historical knowledge. We had a blast!

I'm not sure what she thought of my work or ideas, but evidently I think she caught on to my concept. I don't think I really expressed my ideas very well. In fact, I really haven't put into words just how I'd like to see this joint venture, though I'm going to try here!

I'd like to tap into the natural inclination that people have when visiting sites of great antiquity. We've all wanted to "take a chip off the Coliseum in Rome" or "pocket a little rock from Stonehenge" or find an arrowhead or a shard of pottery. We've all wondered what it would be like to find an Egyptian tomb or rummage through the storage closets of the world's great museums. Popular movies feed this mystery, like Indiana Jones and the Da Vinci Code. Touching ancient artifacts and finding a souvenir are very much part of the myth of archeology.

Hence, I'd love to use my three suitcases. I've planned to fill them with remnants from imaginary past cultures and allow people at the exhibit to handle all the contents, read the altered books, turn over the bits of fabric, even buy a little piece or two. I'd like these "fragments" to be packaged with in envelops or small boxes with "authentification" cards, basically a "label" that would give each piece a name and include my signature. I think this would be FUN and potentially profitable. The "fragments" would be creative uses of ordinary materials excavated from the studio. The sales approach would be equally novel.

Of course, the larger pieces would hang on the walls. These would be Janet's incredible mosaics and my larger, framed textiles. Slowly Janet could see the unique possibilities. We looked through a suitcase in which she'd stored a collection of incredible Chinese costumes, mainly children's exotic head dresses in the shapes of wild animals. They were colorful, intricate, fanciful. Just touching them was exciting. This was the experience that I hope to bring to the exhibit, the joy of discovery, the thrill of mystery, or exploration through the remnants of time.

Then Janet took more interest in the little things in my suitcase. She brought out a large brown paper bag of acrylic painted mat board scraps. We started putting my "fragments" on her paintings. Collaborations were born. Within a few mere minutes, we'd selection several combinations. I reminded Janet that much of this was really her idea. I am still completely drawn to the article describing her show in Aiken over a year ago.

It said:
".....The exhibition is a conceptual presentation in two parts. The mosaics represent excavations and the paintings constitute the artist's reflections on the excavations. The two bodies of work are tied together thematically by the artist's longtime interest in archaeology. Her visits to ruins such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Ostia Antica informed this body of work.

The mosaics are composed of found and unearthed objects as well as high end purchased materials such as smalti and gold tesserae. The juxtaposition of the mundane with the valuable plays human need off human desire the practical need to "waste not, want not" and the indulgent desire to acquire the rare and precious. Archaeology uniformly reveals both.

'As a mixed-media and found-object artist who has collected things for well over a decade, I began to feel entombed by the accumulation of materials in my studio,' the artist said. 'Through a self-imposed edict, I decided to rid myself of accumulated materials, hoping that my disciplined restraint from acquiring new materials and the clearing out of clutter would find a path to enlightenment. How close to zero could I get? And what was the meaning of emptying out? How easily could I part with treasured objects, sticking them in cement and sending them back out into the world?'

The process took on a life of its own. 'After about six months of working in this manner, the quest away from one thing became a journey toward something else,' says Kozachek. 'As I found frugal and clever ways of assembling the plethora of materials in my studio, my own personal past intersected with my interest in archaeology and imagined civilizations began to emerge in my work an archaeology of the mind.'"

As a result, I sewed my pieces straight through Janet's painting and framed up the selections we made. I am more inspired that ever. This should be wonderful!

Posted by Susan Lenz at 1:56 PM - No Comments Add a Comment (edit)

1 comment:

Tamara Gantt said...

Wow. This is a great blog about my friend Janet. We are featuring about 25 of her mosaic masks at our upcoming Summer Arts Fest at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. Thanks for writing so beautifully and affirmatively about her work and her character.